This one's been doing the rounds for some time, and when Alok lazily tagged everyone who's on his sidebar, or anyone who has ever commented on his blog, I thought, what fun, so long a sI can vary things a bit here and there.
So, here I go.
Total number of books owned
Let's start with the tough ones, why don't we. I don't know, but somewhere in the region of 3-4,000 is what I'm guessing.
I had a wonderful opportunity that I didn't take, to count about a year ago when I took out every book from every shelf, cupboard, kitchen shelf and coffee table there is, dusted all of 'em, cleaned the shelves, cupboards etc, put fresh paper and neem leaves (to keep the silverfish out), re-ordered books by author, genre, country and unavailability (most precious and out of print books were hidden away in top cupboards to discourage borrowing). At that time, I had piles of books all over my bedroom floor, so that the only way to get from this side to that was to climb over the bed.
Ok, so I'm bragging a little. But mostly I'm in a panic, because I'm remembering books I know I have but can't immediately recall where I've put them. Like that book without a cover that I picked up at Abids one Sunday more than a decade ago, called A Pocketful of Ribaldry. Once this starts to happen I'm in trouble, because it usually means waking up at 2am in a cold sweat and wondering if, in a fit of madness, I'd agreed to lend my copy of, say, The Film Till Now to the local film club.
(I'm kidding. I don't lend books. To anyone.)
Last book bought
The Speaking Tree by Richard Lannoy. At Fountain. Of course, the only Speaking Tree I knew anything about until five years ago, was that very annoying column in The Times of India. Then, when I was editing a journal which had a paper by Richard Lannoy, I heard of this book. Haven't started to read it; wonder if it might have dated in the 36 years since it was written. I shall find out, shan't I?
Last book read
We're not counting Greenwitch, are we? That took me all of an hour and a half. Let's see...ah yes. Kamila Shamsie's In The City By The Sea. This must be one of the few times I've started at the beginning of a writer's work (when they've written more than one book and one can choose, of course. I'm not talking about first books where, by default you begin at the beginning).
There's this lovely bit towards the end of the book, where the young boy, Hasan, is in a thoughtful mood. His cousin, Zehra, is not very encouraging; especially not of potentially purple poetry. I've been wanting to post this for a bit, so here it is:
‘There’s something really wonderful about this,’ he said. ‘I mean, its so simple, it’s moving, you know?”
Zehra raised her eyebrows. ‘Oh god, you’re going to turn into one of those boys who write poems entitled “For I Have Seen The Miracle Of Sunsets” at the age of sixteen and never have more than three words in a line.”
This three-words-in-a-line indictment is something I'm going to use very soon, somewhere. I can just feel it.
Five books that mean a lot to you
I'd rather amswer the question, What's your favourite colour. I mean, really! 'ean a lot'because of what the book's about, or because of how rare it is, or because of what someone wrote in it, or because what it cost you to buy it? All of these things make of a book something more tahn its contents. But whatever...
Eric Rhodes' A History of the Cinema.
In class 9, when reading history for fun was a very startling idea, we had to do a project on any subject of our choice. Three of us chose Film, because we thought it meant sitting and watching films for one week, and what could be more fun? We were right. But we also had a lot of reading to do, and history never read better. Every title, every name was a litany, an enchantment: Berlin, Symphony of a City. Murnau, Caligari, Kuleshov, Vertov, Einsentein, Pudovkin. Even today, I know I will recognise these films, should I ever manage to see them, just by their descriptions. I will know early Surrealist Cinema; I will see UFA in early German cinema and expand it in my sleep into Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft.
Scaramouche (first edition)
The long story here
Letters To A Young Poet, Rilke.
What can I say? There are some books that are like Bibles. I know some people who have claimed that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was their Bible. Thankfully, I am not of their number.
The Archy and Mehitabel Omnibus
For the longest time, when I was in college, one pavement seller, I think in F Block, CP, used to have Archy and Mehitabel. I used to pick it up each time, turn it over, read a poem or two and ask the guy how much it was. His answer never varied, no matter how pathetic I looked, and it was always unaffordable.
Two years ago, when my friend, Sampurna came to stay for a few days, I told her this story. What are the odds that among the few things she was carrying in her shoulder bag (for a stay of five days! How does anyone do it?!) was this book? And what are the odds that she would feel generous enough to give it away?
*CHEATING ENTRY AHEAD*
All the Saints, Edgar Wallaces, Sabatinis and some other books
No really. How to calibrate the worth of these rare - if low-brow - books? In this category are also the children's book you won't have even heard of: Chronicles of Pantouflia by Andrew Lang and At The Back of the North Wind by George McDonald; the Richard Armours - It All Started With Eve, It All Started With Columbus (though, to my eternal regret, not Twisted Tales From Shakespeare). And Sellar and Yeatman's wonderful 1066 And All That.
Who Do I Tag?
Anyone who wants to take it up. Just let me know, though and I'll link it up.